The 30 Day Knitting Challenge – Day 29

So I’ve gone a bit out of order here. I’ve answered all the questions except day 29’s. I deferred on it the other day because I was playing catch up and putting multiple answers in one post. I found I wanted more time and space to answer this question, so here you go!

Day 29: Do you have any tips, or things that you’ve learned from knitting?

I’m tempted to break this down. I mean, what is the actual focus of the question? Is it referring to knitting tips and tricks I’ve learned? Or is it about a greater insight into life, myself and the world that I might have gained from knitting? The answer to that is, of course: my blog, my choice! And I choose both.

For knitting tips and tricks, oh man. I’ve learned a lot. I keep a list of things handy on my ravelry profile page. They’re in no particular order. There are patterns, techniques, tricks, tutorials, etc. I’ve copied and pasted it here in case any one item will prove helpful to someone:

Wiki tips and techniques
Techniques thread
Top Ten Knitting Tricks
Kitchener stitch
Grafting in pattern
Weaving in ends
TECHknitter index
Chain crochet cast on
Fiber burn chart
Tillybuddy’s very stretchy cast on (short version)
Grams to yards conversion
Knitting a chain edge on garter stitch
A giant list of sock techniques
Icelandic bind off for garter stitch
One stitch cable techniques
German short rows
Knitted cherries!
Judy’s Magic Cast On
Knitted strawberries!

I can’t stress enough the usefulness of the TECHknitter index. It’s my first stop shop for any technical knitting question. My second go-to is Over the years, knitty’s Techniques with Theresa column has helped me with tons of stuff. I prefer to learn from pictures rather than videos, so often the knitty articles work well for me. If I can’t find what I’m looking for from either of those sources, good old Google has yet to fail me.

One tip that’s not represented on that list (to my knowledge) is my newly discovered no-holes sock gusset approach. I mentioned this on my last Thursday Sock-Along post, but I’ll briefly restate it here: when picking up stitches along each edge of a heel flap (on cuff down, traditional heel socks), pick up as many as seems appropriate for the edge, i.e., one for each slipped stitch. This will typically be one or two more per side than the pattern calls for*. Then, work one round in pattern and start your decreases as usual. The trick is that instead of decreasing any extra stitches away on that first round, you just add an extra decrease round or two until you get down to the prescribed number of stitches. That keeps the fabric from getting pulled too tight at those extra stitches and making a hole.

One last knitting tip I will share is this: Just try stuff. That’s how you learn new tricks. Just trying things to see how they work, making adjustments, talking to other people who’ve done the same thing, making more adjustments, repeat repeat repeat until you have something you like. So much of my knitting prowess, such as it is, has come from just diving in and trying things that seemed over my head at the time.

Okay, this is really the last tip I’m sharing: ravelry is a great resource. I haven’t had a ton of luck finding tutorials and that sort of thing there, but if you have a question about a specific pattern, that’s the place to try. Check the pattern page first. There are sections for comments, forum posts and blog posts, and many times I’ve found the answers to my questions there. If that doesn’t work, searching the forums often turns up answers.


A rav screenshot showing the different tabs on a pattern page

You can also do an advanced search on all the projects for a specific pattern. I like to do that and filter to view projects with the most favorites or that were marked the most helpful. That way, I can look through project notes and often find the answers I’m looking for there.


A rav screenshot showing an advanced search filtered to show most helpful first

And now, on to the more existential interpretation of the question: What life lessons have I learned from knitting?

Interestingly enough, the answer to this question is, in a general sense, pretty much the same: use your resources. When something seems tricky or tough, poke around until you find someone else who has gone through the same thing, and then benefit from their experience. Try new things and new approaches. Don’t give up–it will make sense eventually!

I have also learned that knitting is a powerful tool. For me, it has been pain relief, a mood enhancer, a source of balance and perspective. It has provided me with community and support, good will and mojo. It’s been an outlet for me for when I just need to get my mind off things, or when I need to calm down enough to mull something over. It’s provided me with both comfort and challenge when I’ve needed them. Knitting is both a way for me to take care of myself and to give to other people, be it through community and connection or through gifting FOs, yarn, fiber or supplies. In short, knitting has saved me, over and over again.

What tips and tricks, technical or otherwise, have you learned from knitting?

So, this concludes my 30 day knitting challenge. I’ve gotten some really good feedback on these posts, and I’ve enjoyed writing them immensely. I’m toying with the idea of making it a yearly thing. I would write another set of questions as most of these are one time deals, but I haven’t worked out the details yet. I think it would be a cool June tradition for me. Also, it will segue nicely into July 4 which is my blogiversary! Stay tuned for that tomorrow!

I will leave you with a pic of another thing that is a constant source of both joy and challenge for me. Here she is when I asked her to smile!

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Have a wonderful weekend, and happy knitting!

*As far as I can tell, this happens because patterns usually say to pick up 1 stitch for each 2 rows knitted…but that total often doesn’t take into account a set up row or final row. So, picking up the number of stitches stated will often leave a hole in one or both of those places.

The 30 Day Knitting Challenge is the creation of Meggiewes who blogs at Knitting in Wonderland.


The 30 Day Knitting Challenge – Days 25-28, 30

Let’s see if I can get caught up!

Day 25: Do you have a knitting book or a place where you keep patterns, ideas, size measurements? Post a picture of it!

No, I really don’t. I track projects on ravelry and on the notes app on my phone.

Day 26: Have you ever been a part, or wanted to be a part of a knit-a-long? What was it? If not, why?

Yes, I have. I just recently participated in Melanie Berg’s Any Shawl KAL. It helped me knock out my Miller’s Daughter. It was really awesome to keep up with the thread on ravelry because I loved seeing all the color combinations people came up with. I also loved that it was for any shawl, not just one pattern. I took a second look at several patterns that didn’t really tempt me at first, and I think that has a lot to do with seeing how so many different projects turned out.

Day 27: How do you acquire most of yarn? Online retailers, local yarn shops, swaps, or large chain craft stores? What’s your favorite?

A little bit of everything, really. My favorite thing ever is to find awesome yarn at a thrift store. Otherwise, I’ve gotten a bunch of yarn from people who were destashing. I really seem to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time when it comes to scoring yarn. If I had a yarn shortage (and a job), I would strive to shop exclusively from local sources, my LYS and indie operations online. As it is, I love finding bargains online. I occasionally shop at a big box craft store, but only when I need supplies for a specific commissioned piece. Not everything can be made with merino!

Day 28: Do you do any other crafts besides knitting? What are they, and did learning to knit come before or after learning these other crafts?

Not anymore, really. When I was a kid I would do any craft I could get my hands on. I particularly liked counted cross stitch. I’ve done anything from making beaded jewelry to embroidery to macrame bracelets, latch hook rugs, etc. As an adult, I’ve tried a little spinning but I don’t intend to pick it up any time soon. I’ve also done a fair amount of sewing over the years. I would like to get back into that at some point soon. I have a handful of projects in mind that I want to work on.

Day 29: Do you have any tips, or things that you’ve learned from knitting?

I’m going to defer on this one for right now. I think this could be a whole separate post!

Day 30: What’s your name on Ravelry? If you don’t have a Ravelry account, why?

My ravelry user ID is alexand. I’ve been a member since it was in beta and you needed to get an invite to join (September 21, 2007 if you’re curious). I am raveler  #13148.

I cannot overstate how much I love being a member of ravelry. I’ve learned so much from the forums, from looking at others’ projects, and from just being exposed to so many awesome knitters, designers and patterns. I’ve found amazing community there that has supported me many times and in many ways. I’ve connected with people I otherwise never would have met, including some people local to me who have turned out to be wonderful friends.

So that I don’t leave you photo-less, here’s a shot of Kitten Man in his impromptu box fort the other day:


Happy knitting!

The 30 Day Knitting Challenge is the creation of Meggiewes who blogs at Knitting in Wonderland.


The 30 Day Knitting Challenge – Day 22

Day 22: Have you ever stricken someone off your to-knit-for list because they didn’t appreciate/take care of your last knitted gift to them?

Ohhh. That’s a tough one but no, not really. There are people I probably won’t make anything else for any time soon, but it’s not because they did something to warrant banishment from the handknit bounty. It’s more because not everyone has a passion for handknits, and that’s okay. I very well might knit something for them at some point, but I would tend to keep them rather more light in the rotation. There’s something very rewarding about knitting for people who are thoroughly knitworthy, so I would tend to knit things for the people like that in my life more often.

The nanny/babysitter who takes care of my daughter falls into that category. She has consistently shown such non-pushy enthusiasm for my knits that I just naturally tend to want to make things for her and her daughter. It helps that her daughter, a real pistol, is about 12 months and ridiculously cute. She’s been the recipient of a number of test knits that I’ve done.

She doesn’t stay still long (at all) so it’s hard to get pics, but she recently modeled my Knight’s Helmet Hat, too.

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I while back, I offered her (the mom) a choice of things that I had made. I didn’t know her tastes well enough to choose for her. I had a couple of hats and a scarf on hand. As testimony to her good taste, she looked for about a half a second before choosing one of the loveliest things I’ve made:

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That is my Wayfarer Hat test knit by made from madelinetosh Tosh DK. It’s a great pattern by Carol E. Herman. I love the textural symmetry between the cables and the rib, and between the rice stitch on the crown and on the band under the cables. It works well in the Tosh DK. The high twist gives it good stitch definition and the color just defies explanation. It’s so deep and layered. And, it’s soft and silky and just a little bit crisp to the touch. I love it and I wanted it to go to someone who would really appreciate it. I’m so glad it did!

I somehow manage to keep answering different questions than the ones that were asked! My blog, my prerogative, right? In any case, my posts have really helped me to reflect on some of my knitting practices and past projects. This challenge has been a lot of fun so far. What about you? Do you have a No Gifting list? Or do you spread your knitting babies around with abandon and trust that they’ll be loved?

The 30 Day Knitting Challenge is the creation of Meggiewes who blogs at Knitting in Wonderland.

The 30 Day Knitting Challenge – Day 21

Day 21: Do you knit gifts for friends and family for the holidays or birthdays?

Well, yes! And no. It just depends. Last Christmas I knitted lots of gifts for family, mostly. I don’t know that I can do quite that much this year and in the future. No one expected me to do it, I just wanted to. At least any pressure was self-imposed! I think that moving forward, though, I’d rather just knit things for people on an ongoing basis. That way, if I stumble across a project that I think would be great for someone, I can just work on it and give it to them whenever it’s ready. That way my knitting time won’t be entirely co-opted by gift knits. I do like knitting for myself, as well.

And, honestly? I don’t think I could come up with a yearly knitted gift for my fil, among others. Not everyone needs or wants a million handknits.

The best way to get knitted gifts out of me are as follows:

  • Recognize the large amounts of time, energy and often money that go into handknits.
  • Appreciate any previous handknits you’ve received, from me or others.
  • Use your handknits! That’s what they’re for! Just don’t abuse them.
  • Ask me! If I don’t know you would like knitted socks, for instance, I certainly won’t make you any. That said, there’s a difference between asking and demanding. Be prepared that I might say no. But, if you ask in a way that makes it clear that you understand bullets one through three, I’ll know that you get it, and that goes a long way.
  • If I am making you something, for the love of all things cashmere, TELL me if you are unlikely to use whatever it is I’m making. If yellow makes you look like a liver patient, don’t let me make you something yellow. Don’t just accept whatever I suggest to be polite (but do be tactful). I don’t want to put hours into something that will just fall flat.

Just a smattering of gifts I’ve made in the past year (okay, one or two are still in progress, but you get the idea).

What about you? Do you give your knits away? Are you a selfish* knitter?

*I don’t think knitting for oneself is selfish, but some people adopt that label for themselves.

The 30 Day Knitting Challenge is the creation of Meggiewes who blogs at Knitting in Wonderland.

The 30 Day Knitting Challenge – Day 20

Day 20: Do you knit in public? Was anyone offended/incredibly happy/curious that you were doing so?

It’s funny that this question popped up so close to WWKIP Day! I knit in public all the time–in waiting rooms and coffee shops, mostly. I also knitted my way through many, many lectures when I was in nursing school ten years ago. You’d think that would detract from my ability to listen and retain information, but it’s just the opposite. Something about knitting actually helps me focus more, not less. Provided it’s a simple knit, that is.

I’ve never known anyone to be offended by my knitting in public. However, I am sometimes pretty oblivious to stuff like that, so I might not always notice unless someone said something to me. No one ever has. For the most part, people seem interested in what I’m doing. I’ve had some nice chats with fellow knitters and aspiring knitters alike.

Happy Solstice and happy knitting!


The 30 Day Knitting Challenge is the creation of Meggiewes who blogs at Knitting in Wonderland.

The 30 Day Knitting Challenge – Day 19

Okay, I know I’ve said before that I don’t really want to get into politics on my blog. I mean, I don’t mind a good debate, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that I want people to be drawn here by the knitting, the potential for a piece of the fiber community, and the sense of healing, not because of shared (or not) political views. I am hoping that much of that can be transcended by a mutual love of making, fiber and learning.

However, there’s been quite a debate that has touched my fiber community lately. I read a piece yesterday that simply blew me away and I imagine others would like to read it too. The controversy centers around the presence of the Pride flag on the ravelry logo. It’s now tradition for them to “fly” it during Pride every year and, every year, there is copious discussion about it on the forums. Recently, someone posted an open letter to ravelry in protest of the flag (to limit traffic to the author’s blog, I’m posting a link to the same content hosted on another site). The response that I found so moving can be read here.

So, click and read if you feel inspired to do so. You are welcome to leave comments with your reactions if you like–I just ask that you keep things respectful, regardless of your stance. It’s no secret what side of the debate I fall on. If you see things differently, that’s okay. I might not understand why but I would still knit with you. Once upon a time I was much more outspoken about my viewpoints and much less tolerant of different stances. In more recent years, I’ve started appreciating more fully that everyone has experienced a different walk of life, and that each person’s history will have shaped their thoughts and beliefs uniquely. I admire those people who take a hard look at their assumptions and strive to overcome shortsightedness, but I recognize that not everyone gets to that point.

With that, I’ll return to our regularly scheduled program.

Day 19: Do you watch movies and/or listen to podcasts while knitting? What are your favorite things to knit to?

Yes, frequently. I mostly watch Netflix but I will occasionally watch a knitting vlog if I stumble across one*. I mostly watch shows instead of movies as I find I don’t have to pay as close attention to them. The best options are ones that I can listen to and just look up at now and then. Shows that have complicated plot lines don’t tend to be good choices! I tried to watch House of Cards and knit but I just ended up completely clueless as to what was going on.

For whatever reason, I find police procedurals and shows about crime to be the most interesting. I also like things with a touch of the fantastic thrown in. Right now, I’m working my way through Star Trek Voyager. Things I’ve watched recently are Lie to Me, Lost Girl, How to Get Away with Murder (this one was really too complicated to knit to, so I just rewound a lot), Sherlock (which was amazing), The Returned and Person of Interest. I’m looking forward to watching season 4 of Orange is the New Black. If you have any suggestions for good shows on Amazon or Netflix, let me know!

I hate to leave you without some sort of knitting pic, so here’s the current state of my Wee la Nina. I wove in the rest of the ends yesterday while I was knitting in public.

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It’s size 12-18 mo and will be for our nanny’s 1 yo daughter. Just needs buttons and blocking!

*In fact, I’m interested in finding good knitting vlogs to follow. I’d love if you’d share your favorites with me! Kepanie/Stefanie, I haven’t watched yours yet but it’s at the top of my list!

The 30 Day Knitting Challenge is the creation of Meggiewes who blogs at Knitting in Wonderland.

The 30 Day Knitting Challenge – Day 18

Day 18: Do you knit English or Continental?

English. It’s how I learned when I was a kid. A friend of mine in college knit Continental. When I saw how fast her knitting went, I switched. It took me a while to get the hang of it and to build up some speed, but I got pretty good with it for a bit. Then school and life happened for a while and I had a knitting dry spell. When I picked the needles up again, my muscle memory kicked in and it was back to English.

I’ve thought about trying to switch again, but have decided against it (at least for now). I do tension one of the yarns in my left hand when I do stranded colorwork but, let’s be honest, I don’t do a ton of stranded colorwork. I’ve stuck with my current style because if I switch I will have a long period when my tension is irregular and my knitting speed drops way down. Although I know I would regain both consistency and speed, the idea sounds really irritating. I rely on knitting a lot at the moment: for pain relief, for emotional solace, for providing a sense of self-worth and accomplishment. If I pulled the rug out from under that I don’t know where I’d be! So for now, I will stick with what’s working. That said, I’m getting to be a pretty quick knitter…for a thrower.

Of note, there are many more styles of knitting than just English and Continental, and there are different variations of both of those styles. Other styles that come to mind are Portuguese knitting, where the knitter tensions the yarn by running it behind her (or his) neck, sometimes guiding it through a specially designed pin worn on the chest. Purling is typically much faster with this style. Also, there’s Irish Cottage or Lever knitting, which is just something else entirely. You can watch the Yarn Harlot churning out knitting on straight needles here and on dpns here. The second video is actually slowed down for a bit and analyzed so that you can actually see what’s happening. It’s just a little crazy. If I were really concerned about speed, I would try to learn that method! As it is, what I’m doing now brings me comfort.

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Bonus sock progress pic!

What’s your knitting style?

The 30 Day Knitting Challenge is the creation of Meggiewes who blogs at Knitting in Wonderland.

The 30 Day Knitting Challenge – Days 16 & 17

Day 16: Have you ever had a knitting related injury?

Yes, actually, but nothing serious. Years ago if I spent a long time knitting, my neck and shoulders would get sore. These days my knitting ergonomics must be better because not only does that not happen, knitting is actually pretty good pain relief.

I have stabbed myself with knitting needles, as documented here. I also sometimes push the point of the working needle down with my left index finger while knitting, so if I’m using an exceptionally sharp set of needles, that can get painful after a while. Lastly, working with some fibers (cotton, coarse acrylic, etc.) can get very hard on the hands.

A few weeks ago, they aired an episode of Car Talk that fielded the question of whether or not it’s safe to knit in the car (while a passenger). The consensus was actually no. I guess that in the event of an accident, the needles could be pretty dangerous.

Overall, I believe the healing effects of knitting outweigh the risks!

Day 17: Have you ever had a project that you loved become ruined? What’s the story behind it?

Actually…no. I did have a potholder that caught on fire once, but it had already had a long and useful life at that point. I’ve had pieces I made get stolen, which sucked. I still miss a certain Noro scarf from several years back. I was never able to find that same yarn and colorway again or I would have made another. At this point, I can’t even remember what yarn it was, just that it was Noro. It was mostly green with tans and browns interspersed and just the occasional flash of hot orange. I used it to make a garter stitch chevron scarf (Flying V pattern). Despite the fact that I’ve made at least half a dozen scarves from that pattern, I only have pictures of one, made with a completely different yarn:

What about you? Tell me about your knitting injuries and your project woes!

The 30 Day Knitting Challenge is the creation of Meggiewes who blogs at Knitting in Wonderland.


The 30 Day Knitting Challenge – Day 15

Day 15: What was your least favorite pattern and why?

You know, I’m just not going to answer this question, and here’s why: Even though I have high expectations for patterns, and there are plenty of patterns I’ve used and don’t care for, I don’t see the point in singling any of them out here. I try to put honest but constructive feedback about patterns in my project notes on ravelry. I don’t want to highlight a pattern here sheerly to give it a poor review.

So…what should we talk about?

With all this 30 day challenging happening, it’s been a bit since I’ve given a little update on where I am, what I’m working on, and what’s coming up next. Now seems like a good time to remedy that! The name of the game lately for me is finishing. I technically have 11 WIPs, according to my ravelry project page, and I intend to whittle that number down as much as I can. With Miller’s Daughter and the Giant Blue Rectangle off the needles, I don’t currently have a big project going. While I’m trying to decide what the Next Big Thing will be, I’m going to tie up some loose ends*.

Some of this finishing is stuff for other people, mostly fellow clientele of my LYS. I just did a set of shoulder seams and I have two sweaters waiting to be blocked and seamed. Today I re-blocked the Giant Blue Rectangle. I blocked it a couple of weeks ago but wanted to touch up the edges now that I have a good set of blocking wires. It’s now drying in my mil’s basement. I’ll sew it up in a day or two and send it on its merry way! I have three hats floating around that need blocking and a baby cardigan that needs the ends woven in, so I’ll work on those in the meantime. I have two skirts for my daughter that are done except for putting in elastic so, if I’m feeling really ambitious, I might finish those up. Somewhere in all this I need to find two buttons and sew them on the knight’s hat. I’m also going to frog one of the WIPs that’s been hanging around for a while and just not coming together. If (when) I get all of that done, I’ll be down to three WIPs. That’s totally manageable, right?

I finished the knight set diaper cover the other day. Here’s a sneak peek:


Oh yeah, I also have to repair a crochet blanket and knit a sword.

So. What should I cast on next?

Happy knitting! I’ll leave you with a gratuitous cat photo. Here’s Kitten Man looking especially fetching:


Image copyright Callandra S. Cook

*See what I did there?

The 30 Day Knitting Challenge is the creation of Meggiewes who blogs at Knitting in Wonderland.

The 30 Day Knitting Challenge: Day 14

Day 14: What’s the worst yarn/fiber that you’ve worked with and why?

Hoo boy, that’s a tough one to answer. I’m pretty sure there are plenty of awful yarn experiences I’ve had that I’ve blocked out of my memory. For what it’s worth, even decent yarn experiences apparently slip my memory: My mom told me on one of her recent visits that I knit her a hat while we were at a knitting retreat years ago. Once she said it, it sounded vaguely familiar, but I essentially have no memory of it. I wonder how many other Alex Originals are floating around out there that I’ve completely forgotten!

Right, worst yarn ever. You probably know by now that you’re not going to get just one answer. Let’s start with a recent experience:


This is some random grey acrylic that was lurking in my stash. I have no idea where it came from, but it most likely was in a batch of yarn from Goodwill or the like. Now, I don’t hate acrylic yarn. I have some yarn elitism, to be sure, but there’s something to be said for having the right yarn for the job, and sometimes that’s acrylic. There are plenty of non-scratchy acrylics out there and I use them when appropriate:

But this particular grey acrylic was just nasty. Part of the problem was that I sort of just assumed it was worsted/aran weight, so I used it as such when making a Car Blanket for my fil. The other three yarns I used were all Caron Simply Soft. Throughout most of the project, I just knew that I hated working with it: It hurt my hands, it was stiff and scratchy, and the fabric it created was unpleasant. I forged ahead, though. It wasn’t until I was almost done with the blanket that I realized that I was knitting it at too tight of a gauge and that it was probably closer to bulky weight. I don’t think knitting it on larger needles would have sparked a love affair with it, but it might have been a little less intolerable than it was. In any case, the blanket turned out well and no one but me seemed to think the grey panels were sub par.

Another unsatisfactory yarn experience involved Berroco Linet:


I have twelve skeins of this stuff. Twelve. 1320 yards. It came from the Goodwill windfall. It’s cool enough yarn, but I just tried to use it for the wrong project. Mind you, I have no idea what the right project would be, but this definitely wasn’t it. I started to make a Lacy Loo with it, but it just was not working:

The chainette construction of the yarn gives it a sort of angular quality, which made it odd to work with. It wasn’t physically unpleasant like the grey acrylic, it was just not satisfying. I ended up making the Lacy Loo out of a purple merino (Jil Eaton Minnow Merino) instead:

Last up is this sort of greenish-brown acrylic boucle stuff:


It even kind of looks like a turd, doesn’t it? I lost the ball band for it a long time ago and have no memory of what it is. I tried starting something with it years ago, but it just pulls in that weird boucle way. It also has a very thin core of just a thread or two surrounded by a lot of fuzz so it was very hard to work with. I find that I tend to not care for most boucle yarns in general. I haven’t worked with a really nice one yet, though, so they may actually be lovely and I just don’t know it yet!

What’s the worst yarn you’ve worked with?

The 30 Day Knitting Challenge is the creation of Meggiewes who blogs at Knitting in Wonderland.